- Rail Freight Services
Pacific National, Australia’s largest rail freight operator, has warned the NSW Government it risks
losing future export container volumes to the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane if critical rail freight
infrastructure is not upgraded or built within the next four years.
Mr Dalla Valle said the efficient running of regional freight trains in and out of Port Botany needs
to be a top priority for the NSW Government in its third term. It’s now or never.
“I’m confident the re-elected Berejiklian-Barilaro government has the will, expertise and funding to
fix a longstanding problem for rail freight movements in NSW,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Mr Dalla Valle said running a freight train loaded with containers from country NSW over the
Great Dividing Range into Sydney will become too inefficient, unreliable and hence costly within
four years, forcing many regional exporters to bypass Port Botany.
“Without timely upgrades to the state’s rail freight network, containerised goods and commodities
from the Riverina will be more efficiently hauled to Port of Melbourne, while produce from northernand north-western NSW will be transported to Port of Brisbane,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Mr Dalla Valle said once Pacific National’s Parkes Logistics Terminal is fully up and running,
450,000-plus shipping containers from around Australia will be consolidated in Central NSW.
“From Parkes, these containers can make their way to the port of Melbourne or Brisbane. The
future Inland Rail will make these haulage operations even more efficient.
“The NSW Government needs to be acutely aware of these future competitive dynamics,” said Mr
Mr Dalla Valle said the equation is very simple for freight – it flows along the path of least
resistance; both in terms of cost and reliability of train services.
“If a freight train delayed by congestion misses a loading window for containers at Port Botany,
then exporters suffer financial penalties and a loss of goodwill with clients,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Pacific National estimates for every 1,000 shipping containers gravitating to ports in Victoria and
Queensland up to 10 jobs in NSW are lost.
Jobs associated with freight and logistics, including running a port, include train and truck drivers,
container lift operators (quayside cranes and straddle carriers), fork lift drivers, stevedore staff,
freight forwarders, warehouse administration, tradespeople and suppliers.
Mr Dalla Valle said the NSW Government has several infrastructure and policy levers that must
be pulled quickly to protect jobs and unleash the full potential of the state’s rail supply chain,
• Fast-track duplication of the remaining 2.9-kilometre section of single line between Mascot
and Botany. This requires ongoing close collaboration between NSW government agencies
(notably Transport for NSW and Department of Planning) and Australian Rail Track
• Construction of extra passing loops on both the Country Regional Network and Metropolitan
Freight Network to help trains (both freight and passenger) overtake and run separately. To
its credit, the NSW Government has commenced this process by delivering two new passing
loops between Lithgow and Blayney at a cost of $21.5 million.
• Removal of ‘steam age era’ rules which dictate the operational requirements of freight trains
on the NSW rail network. A 4,000-tonne regional freight train hauling 160 export containers to
port can be stopped dead in its tracks by a single piece of red tape.
• Pricing reform for freight trains accessing the Sydney rail network to help shift more freight
from road to rail. Australians want real trains, not road trains (trucks) hauling more freight to
help reduce traffic congestion, vehicle emissions and road accidents.
• Establishing a system whereby rail freight operators have greater transparency and certainty
of access to tight delivery windows at Port Botany stevedore terminals.
Because the Sydney rail network is so busy and congested – and because cargo ships wait for
no one – freight trains are forced to ‘thread the eye of a needle’ to hit a small window to deliver
containers to port. If the needle is moving about too much, or if the eye of the needle suddenly
contracts, then operating an efficient freight train service to and from port becomes a logistical
• Actively support the establishment of a network of intermodal freight hubs (where trains and
trucks meet to exchange containers) in Western Sydney; a region with a high concentration of
distribution centres and warehouses.
Mr Dalla Valle said freight hubs act as circuit breakers to free up the flow of containers to and
from port, allowing rapid-fire train shuttles to service stevedoring terminals on the waterfront.
“In a positive development for future freight hub operations, NSW Ports is investing $120 million to
improve ‘on-dock’ rail infrastructure capacity at container terminals at Port Botany.
“There are green-shoots popping up throughout the rail supply chain – it’s time for the NSW
Government to work hard with industry to make them flourish,” said Mr Dalla Valle.